National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Setting a Capital on the Erechtheum T HE Erechtheum, only a few hundred feet north of the Parthenon, is one outstanding example of departure from the usual style of Greek architecture. This remarkable building, in the Ionic style, was built on two different levels to house spots sacred to Athenian tra dition and religion. Chief of these was the Temple of Athena Polias, the guardian of the city. Her image, carved from olive wood, was lighted by a perpetually burning golden lamp. Besides several altars to other divinities, there was the spot where a thunderbolt from Zeus had split the rock of the Acropolis. Also, near by, was the Pandroseion where grew the miracu lous olive tree which Athena had produced in her contest with Poseidon for the right of being the patron of the city. Since the olive was adjudged to be a greater gift to man than the horse, Poseidon's contribution, the contest went to the goddess and she gave her name to the city. The picture shows a part of the northeast corner of the building. Two workmen are setting one of the carved marble Ionic capitals. The upper drum of the column has a round wooden peg set in a square block of wood sunk into the center of the shaft to aid in centering the capital and to serve as a dowel. The columns when first set up were unfluted, save at the top and bottom, and the fluting was then cut on afterward, thus assuring perfect jointing and avoiding any breaks or spalls at the edges. Since no mortar was used in these buildings, the greatest care had to be taken not to chip the edges of the stones at the joints; therefore a protecting surface was lefttobeworked off after the blocks had been setinplace. This explains the narrow sunken band around theedges oftheblock inthe foreground. The moldings were, forthemost part, cutas simple profiles, and further carving was done later. Another device to insure tight joints was that ofcutting back the end surface ofablock over allitsarea save for a band called anathyrosis around theedge. Adjacent blocks in a course were securedwith bronze clamps, leaded in. The small cutting between thetwo H-shaped clamps isa pry hole, to allow the right-hand block tobeshifted slightly from side to side when itwas forced upagainst itsneighbor. Bronze dowels fastenedthe blocks ofonecourse tothe course below, and at the corners ofthebuilding, where there might be a shift in two directions from earthquakes, T-shaped dowels were frequently employed. One ofthese lies in front of the workman attheleft. In the distance appearsthe irregular cone ofMount Lyca bettus and farther off arethe slopes ofMount Pentelicus, site of the marble quarries from which came much ofthe material for the fifth-century buildings ontheAcropolis. It is usual to think ofGreek buildings interms ofthe symmetrical temple, oblong inplan, with arow ofcolumns, or peristyle, surroundingitonallfour sides. This, how ever, is not a complete picture. Although thetemple had to follow a traditional form which had developed from the pre-Greek megaron typeofhouse, identified with thehouse of the ruler and hence of thegod, theGreek architect was capable of solving new problems inanunorthodox way.